Terraforming Mars is impossible with current technology

Mars’ environment cannot be altered so that humans can live there without life support systems, with today’s technology, scientists say in a new study funded by NASA. According to them, the problem lies in too little CO2 on the Red Planet.

Science-fiction writers, someoer scientists and entrepreneurs led by Elon Musk are spreading visions in which theorych man colonizes Mars previously terraforming it. Turning the Red Planet blue, by geoengineering the hostile Martian environment into something hospitable to humans, is beyond humanity’s reach. At least with current technology.

The concepts for terraforming Mars are many and each has a different strategy, but all, or at least most of them, have the support of theolny motive, whichory suggests releasing enough carbon dioxide beneath the surface of Mars to thicken the planet’s atmosphere. Such treatment, in the long-term, moheadby roalso warm Mars a bit and perhaps, one day on its surface, a human mowould live without the systemoin support of life.

The concept is drawn from the human experience on Earth. From the experience of global warming on a planetary scale. Unfortunately, according to a recent NASA-sponsored study, this is still in the realm of science-fiction. A publication on this topic appeared on „Nature Astronomy”.

– Our results suggest that there is not enough CO2 on Mars to lead to a significant greenhouse effect when the gas is introduced into the atmosphere. In addition, most carbon dioxide is unavailable to us and cannot be simply released into the atmosphere, so terraforming Mars is not possible with today’s technology – Said Bruce Jakosky of the University of Colorado at Boulder, the head of theowny author of the publication.

Jakosky, along with Christopher Edwards of Northern Arizona University, used new NASA data collected by space probes – Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Odyssey and MAVEN – in their study. – These data have given us a lot of new information about the history of easily vaporized compoundsow, like CO2 or H2O on Mars. They also provided information on the amount of these compoundsoin on and below the planet’s surface and about the loss of gasow from the atmosphere into space – Edwards pointed out.

Mars’ almost non-existent atmosphere and the resulting lack of atmospheric pressure means that liquid water on the planet’s surface will evaporate or freeze. The authors roThe experts on terraforming Mars claim that if we could in some wayob release carbon dioxide stored in Mars’ polar ice caps, it could double the Red Planet’s atmospheric pressure. This would give pressure rowne 1.2 percent. of that on Earth. It could roalso warm the planet to temperatures at which theorych water could persist in a liquid state.

– It’s not that terraforming itself is impossible, it’s just not as simple as someoers currently claim. We can’t just detonate a few nuclear warheads over ice caps – explained Jakosky.

Admittedly, there are other sources ofosources of CO2 trapped on Mars – in the soil and mineral deposits, but again, as the researchers calculated, there are not enough of them to change the atmosphere significantly or they are inaccessible to us.

Photo. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Although Mars has significant amounts of water ice, whichore can be used to generate water vapor, previous analyses have shown that water alone cannot provide significant warming. Temperatures do not allow us to sustain enough water vapor without first being significantly warmed by CO2.

– We could produce highly efficient greenhouse gases, such as chlorofluorocarbons, whichore would heat the planet, but it requires a more advanced production system, whichory far beyond our current capabilities – admitted Jakosky.

Atmospheric pressure on Mars is about 0.6 percent of Earth’s. Mars is much farther from the Sun than Earth, so researchers estimate that it would take a CO2 pressure in Mars’ atmosphere similar to Earth’s total atmospheric pressure to raise the temperature enough to allow liquid water to exist.

If deposits of CO2 could be released from the surface of Mars, it would still take millions of years to raise the atmospheric pressure. One idea is that comets and asteroids containing volatile compounds needed to warm the planet could be diverted to Mars. We don’t currently have the equipment to do this either, but even if we did, researchers have calculated that thousands of such facilities would be neededow.

But even if, in some miraculous wayob to get the necessary amounts of carbon dioxide, this still leaves the problem of cosmic radiation and solar wind. Structures found on the surface of Mars that resemble riverbeds prove that the planet once had an atmosphere that allowed liquid water to exist. But the atmosphere has escaped into space. No one has so far come up with an effective solution, whichore would allow us to maintain an atmosphere on Mars.

Perhaps in the coming years the development ofoj technology will enable us to overcome these barriers. Perhaps it will allow for other, easier concepts to terreform Mars. However, with current technology this is impossible.

Sourceobackground: NASA, Science Alert, fot. NASA/MAVEN/Lunar and Planetary Institute